Downsizing: Amherst architect designs modern-day bungalow for Florence couple
Exterior view of Dani Pers and David Faytell's home in Florence, designed by architect Sigrid Miller Pollin.
Kitchen view of Dani Pers and David Faytell's home in Florence, designed by architect Sigrid Miller Pollin.
A Stairwell inside Dani Pers and David Faytell's home in Florence, designed by architect Sigrid Miller Pollin.
Custom kitchen designs inside Dani Pers and David Faytell's home in Florence, designed by architect Sigrid Miller Pollin.
Modern kitchen cabinet handles seen inside Dani Pers and David Faytell's home in Florence, designed by architect Sigrid Miller Pollin.
A look down the main hallway in the Florence home of Dani Pers Faytell
Exterior view of the solar array on top of Dani Pers Faytell and David Faytell's home in Florence, designed by architect Sigrid Miller Pollin
Exterior view from the back of Dani Pers and David Faytell's home in Florence, designed by architect Sigrid Miller Pollin.
Not every building project requires an architect, but if you need one it’s reassuring to know that western Massachusetts has an award-winning array of possibilities.
“Be Local, Build Local” is an exhibition of 17 designs by area architects on view through Saturday at the A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. The show was organized by the Western Massachusetts chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Among the designs are four residences in the Pioneer Valley as well as a café in Northampton and two institutional buildings in Springfield. Several other designs are in the Berkshires.
The modern bungalow of David Faytell and Dani Pers Faytell in Florence was designed by Sigrid Miller Pollin of Amherst. Located on a side street close to Florence center, it is on a steep slope that enables the main living area to be on one floor with auxiliary bedrooms on a lower level. A dramatic riprap stone wall of boulders supports the structure while delineating the multilevel back yard.
The Faytells lived in Amherst for 20 years, but when they decided to downsize they wanted to return to Northampton where they had spent the early years of their marriage. After considering their options, they agreed they wanted to live where they could walk or bike to shops, the library, the post office and restaurants.
“We are a leisure-biking family,” said Dani Pers Faytell in an interview last week. “We decided we would really like to live in a bungalow.”
The couple knew Miller Pollin and asked if she would be interested in designing a house for them.
“Sigrid advised finding a piece of property on a hill,” Pers Faytell said. After much searching they came across a narrow sloping lot in a neighborhood of other bungalows, Cape Cods and turn-of-the-last-century farmhouses. From the beginning they wanted their house to blend into the look of the neighborhood.
Miller Pollin designed an up-to-date bungalow with a front porch and a rear deck. The house appears quite small from the street but is surprisingly spacious inside. The living room accommodated 20 guests for Thanksgiving dinner, Pers Faytell reported. The main floor also has a small study for David Faytell, who is a professor in the online business school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a part-time instructor at Frontier Regional High School in South Deerfield. There’s also a powder room and a master bedroom with a full bath. Downstairs is a large bedroom-den with a full bath and a second smaller bedroom.
“It’s a very easy house to move around in,” Pers Faytell said. “It’s very functional with a good use of space.”
“The light is wonderful,” she added. In the hallway, square wall sconces have linen shades lined with Mylar while conical sconces on the stairs are frosted glass. All come from YLighting, an online retailer.
The house is designed for cross-ventilation with windows on three sides in the master bedroom and downstairs study. An air-recovery system designed by Miller Pollin, works well, Pers Faytell said.
“The air doesn’t feel dry and there is never a staleness in the air.”
The house is designed to be energy-efficient, with a photovoltaic array that provides 17 to 18 percent of the house’s electric needs as well as a solar hot water system. “Facing south was fortunate,” Miller Pollin said.
“The efficiency starts with the envelope, which is super-insulated,” she said. The insulation in the roof is R58 and the walls are R40. (Typically, a recommended R value is 20.) All the appliances are Energy Star-rated and there are three thermostats for the zoned natural gas-fueled heating system.
All the wood used in construction is Forest Stewardship Council certified, meaning it was grown in sustainable forests. The floors are bamboo, a renewable resource. The paints are low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds) and most lighting is LED or compact fluorescents.
“It’s a package of all those things,” the architect said. The house won top platinum status through the LEED program (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design) sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The couple moved into the house in July after eight months of a construction. The biggest challenge was getting the cement mixer and other construction equipment up and down the slope.
“I can hear the wheels spinning,” Pers Faytell recalled. “There was some hair pulling,” Miller Pollin agreed.
The exterior clapboards are mostly pale yellow with white trim but part of the house is pale lavender-blue. Special attention was given to the appearance of the steel and translucent glass garage door because it is prominent from the street. The colors are repeated inside with the addition of mustard yellow in the kitchen, olive and deep green on various walls as well as two tones of the lavender-blue in the living room on the fireplace wall.
The kitchen was designed by Miller Pollin but Faytell and Pers Faytell had additional advice from Classic Kitchens in Greenfield, which supplied painted cabinets crafted with pull-out shelves. There is a pantry cupboard as well as standard cabinetry.
The light-brown granite counters came from Granite Creations Inc. in Wilbraham. The Elkay sink and appliances are stainless steel, a material echoed in the cabinet hardware, which has raised dot design. There is a six-burner Kenmore gas stove, a double French door refrigerator by Samsung and a Kenmore dishwasher.
The kitchen is adjacent to the living room but not hidden from it.
“They both like to cook and want to interact with guests,” Miller Pollin said of the couple.
The contractor was Larry Rideout of Granby, who also built Miller Pollin’s own house, which was featured in the Gazette several years ago. M.J. Moran of Williamsburg was the subcontractor, and the photovoltaic array was installed by Real Goods Solar. The panels are rented from the company, which elimates the need for a large investment. Water, Earth & Flowers of Leverett built the stone wall.
The house fits nicely into the neighborhood. Pers Faytell is especially happy with the large planter boxes on the front porch she filled with annuals she grew from seed. For the winter she filled the boxes with evergreen scraps purchased from Christmas tree farms in Hatfield along with winterberry from Hadley Garden Center.
The couple’s former home had a screened porch but they decided to try an open deck, despite worries about insect problems.
“I think we are high enough. We never found ourselves swatting away any bugs,” Pers Faytell said.
“It’s a wonderful house to come home to,” she said. “It feels very solid.”
Cheryl Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org